Organization and Storage for your Math Centers

Saturday, December 3, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Hello teacher friends!  I am Amber from TGIF, a 3rd Grade teacher who loves sharing my survival tips for the classroom.  I love incorporating math centers in my classroom, but I really, truly struggled with how to organize them the first few years.  I am going to share some of my secrets with you, in hopes that it makes your math rotations and centers a success.

This is the most important rule!  Why?  No two classrooms are alike.  We each have different teaching styles, number of students, and student dynamics.  My centers change from year to year and they vary depending on my class's needs.  Every class is different.  Take these ideas and make them work for you and YOUR classroom.

Well....two places actually (because that is what works for me).

1.  I store all my year round supplies in baskets that I purchased from Dollar Tree.  Since they are each $1.00, I don't get upset when one of them may crack.  With that said, I have had a lot of these baskets for 4 years now!  These baskets remain on my shelves all year long.  Sometimes I let the students choose which basket they will work on and other times I choose for them.  If I want them to work on a particular topics, say number sense or time, I just have them take the basket to their table or area.  The small group has several options to choose from.  Some activities can be done independently and others in a group.




2.  If my center is a holiday/seasonal theme or it is one from our current math chapter, then I have them accessible to my students in a file folder organizer rack.  I love the clear portfolios for storing each center (but more about that below).



I have purchased a few mini baskets that I have kept on a shelf labeled with what is inside.  It makes it so easy to find, even for my students.  You can see that inside each of the baskets, I also put 4 plastic cups on the inside to house those small items.  If you are worried about your students putting the items back where they belong, or you don't want to lose that precious time everyday, you can put the supplies inside each clear portfolio envelope for the centers or inside the basket that your students are currently working on.  The clear portfolios are perfect for storing your center games and activities with dice, pawns, counters, or whatever math manipulative you need.




All of the above!  I like having a mix of holiday, seasonal, and everyday theme for several reasons.  Everyday centers are a must because no matter what time of the year you teach a topic, these centers will work.  I really love how the holiday and seasonal centers bring fun and excitement to my students though.  They help keep my centers fresh and exciting.  I do tend to have more seasonal centers because they last for a longer period.  I can only use my holiday centers for a few weeks, but the seasonal centers can be used for 2-3 months.  It allows all my students time to get a turn at that center and allows for repeat use.

I do store my year round centers in the baskets on the shelves that my students grab to take to their desk or "spot" in the room.  However, my seasonal/holiday centers and centers that I have organized by chapter, get stored in one of two places.


I have a file drawer that is dedicated to my math book supplies.  In it I have file folders organized by chapter.  In each chapter file, I have the teacher's edition for that chapter, any chapter vocabulary posters, extra practice pages I have picked up over the years and my centers that match that chapter. These centers are the ones that I store in clear portfolios with the hook and loop closure.  They fit perfectly in the file drawer and all of the game pieces (game cards or pawns) are stored neatly in the portfolio so they don't get lost.





Some of my centers are more seasonal or holiday based.  I store these inside portfolios too (and sometimes gallon zipper bags because let's face it, all this storage gets expensive).  However, these center supplies get stored in monthly 12x12 scrapbook boxes that I purchased from Michael's.  They are available at other craft stores too or any place that sells scrapbook supplies.  Buy a few at a time or wait until they are on sale.  I scored these for $4.00 each! If you ever have a classroom wishlist, you could add these to the list of items parents can donate.




Some of my centers are more seasonal or holiday based.  I store these inside portfolios too (and sometimes gallon zipper bags because let's face it, all this storage gets expensive).  However, these center supplies get stored in monthly 12x12 scrapbook boxes that I purchased from Michael's.  They are available at other craft stores too or any place that sells scrapbook supplies.  Buy a few at a time or wait until they are on sale.  I scored these for $4.00 each! If you ever have a classroom wishlist, you could add these to the list of items parents can donate.

Sometimes I use numbered baskets and other times I don't.  Not only will your years look different, but sometimes times of year too.  Remember, "Rome wasn't built in a day."  You may not have all the supplies you want those first few years.  My centers have been built up over several years now.  I have also thrown away some of my original centers at this point.  Your centers will evolve over time and become better and better.  Be patient.  Just like your teaching craft, your centers will improve over time.


If you need resources for your math centers, check out this 3rd Grade Math Centers Bundle.  If you are looking for winter themed math centers, take a look at these Winter Math Centers.  


Ready to implement your math rotations now, and you aren't sure where to start?  Check out this detailed blog post about implementing math group rotations.  You will be ready to start in no time! 



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